Sunday, February 20, 2011

Diversity and the Independent School

The California Association of Independent Schools (CAIS) is a non-profit organization of elementary, middle and secondary schools in California. The Association serves and strengthens its schools by setting standards of academic quality and ethical conduct, by providing for professional growth of faculty, administrators, and trustees, and by promoting ethic and socio-economic diversity.
- CAIS Mission Statement
I was sitting at my desk the other day and my coworker approached me about a student who apparently is pretty lost when it comes to completing history assignments. I have worked with this student before and this student tends to give you a blank stare whenever you ask about assignments. So, I do know first hand that this kid needs some help. However, I was struck by when my coworker said to me.

We recently sat down and listened to recommendations from the accreditation panel and one of the major recommendations was that our school work on diversity. This coworker became upset by the fact that this student was even at our school.

"They have private schools for non-traditional students" this person whispered. "[this student's] probably here because [this person] can play basketball or volleyball."

WHOA! Racist comment with a saucer of milk table 5!!!

How are you supposed to work on diversity and create an environment open, supportive and welcoming to "non-traditional" students and staff (most of our faculty seems to come from "traditional" communities as well) when people say things like that. I could even say anything because I was just shocked but now it's sinking in and it's making me more and more pissed off.

It is challenging being a "non-traditional" student (even that term is rubbing me the wrong way) but you really do not need faculty who are hostile to the fact that you are even there.

Trust me, there are also plenty of "traditional" students who are just as flightly or lost or spaced out or whatever.

How do other independent schools deal with diversity? or having kids from a different socio-economic background than the majority of their peers? Also, do you bring this up with your bosses? How?

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